The latest ranking by the German Research Council has pointed up the central role played by major universities in the overall academic system in Germany. With a view to improving the quality of research, teaching, management and services, 15 of these heavily research-oriented universities with a broad range of subjects and a wide diversity of student services have joined together in the interests of a concerted quality-enhancement drive. The name of this joint venture is "Benchmarking G21 Quality Enhancement at Major Universities". Its aim is for the universities to learn from one another, to seek joint solutions for similar problems and finally to present their achievements to a broad national and international public. This quality-enhancement drive is the first-ever voluntary inter-state amalgamation of universities independently of official bodies and institutions. It has been initially planned for a period of two years, up to the end of the summer semester 2005. The members involved are leading universities with a broad range of subjects. They are among the top universities in Germany with regard to research, encouragement of younger scientists and scholars and the quality of their graduates.
In the Preamble of the declaration accompanying the establishment of "Benchmarking G21" and issued by the presidents and rectors of the universities involved a few days ago, it says: "Major universities have enormous and extremely wide-ranging potential in research and teaching. At the same time, their size faces them with specific problems in organising that potential." The politicians expect universities to have well-defined "profiles". What they frequently mean by this is discontinuing courses that they erroneously consider to be superfluous or under-attended. But this is to overlook the fact that the breadth and diversity typical of major universities provide renowned scientists and scholars with the opportunity for numerous interdisciplinary research projects and also enable students to look beyond the confines of the subjects they have elected to study.
The size and diversity of a university pose specific administrative challenges. Over the last few years, all the universities represented in this venture can point to major successes with reforms designed to enhance leadership structures, services for students and encouragement in realising the huge potential of younger scientists and scholars. But a lot still remains to be done. Benchmarking is the appropriate instrument for this purpose, learning from those excelling in coping with the new requirements, instituting reforms and dealing with problems. In the further course of events, the intention is to include major universities from other nations in the benchmarking process.
The aim is not to establish new rankings or refute existing ones but rather to identify optimal procedures and organisational structures that promise success in mastering the challenges of the 21st century.
The work groups of "Benchmarking 21" have already started work and have set up an initial programme for the immediate future.
The work group on Study and Teaching compares and identifies models for the transition from school to university and examines the specific problems posed by the structural reforms required for B.A. and M.A. courses.
The work group on Research is largely concerned with instruments for, and approaches to, the encouragement of younger scholars and scientists and with international cooperation.
The work group on Management is concerned with the design of optimal control instruments for university administrations.
Finally, the press and PR officers of the universities will have the job of communicating the results from the work groups to the public.
The members of "Benchmarking 21 Quality Enhancement at Major Universities" are:
Free University Berlin, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Technical University Dresden, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, University of Hamburg, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Ebrhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen and Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.
At present, the University of Cologne has an observer status.
All these universities are notable for an extraordinarily wide range of research ventures and subjects in the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, engineering and medicine. The number of members has been restricted to a maximum of 20 in the interests of efficient cooperation.
Contacts (via the relevant press offices):
Professor Bernd Huber, LMU Munich, phone: 089/21803744
Professor Dieter Lenzen, FU Berlin, phone: 030/83873100
Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Lüthje, University of Hamburg, phone: 040/428384475
Professor Jürgen Schmidt, University of Münster, phone: 0251/8322232
Please address any inquires in connection with the University of Heidelberg to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317